All plants need components to stay alive. In common gardening and farming, plants get their nutrients from soil and additive, such as compost, manure, and chemical fertilizers.
In a hydroponics system, plants are not grown in soil, so nutrients must be delivered directly through the solution they are watered with.
These nutrients are two categories: macronutrients and micronutrients.
Macronutrients are those that plants need in large amounts, including:
Related: The Benefits Of Hydroponic Gardening
Micronutrients are needed in tiny amounts but are essential. These include:
Without these fundamental elements, plants are unable to form molecules, undergo enzymatic reactions, and complete the life cycle.
It is the same in hydroponic nutrient solutions. For hydroponic growers, this means that without proper nutrients, they cannot produce fruit or vegetables.
Nutrient Solutions Hydroponic Systems
For survival, plants need to respire, get moisture, and photosynthesize. And they are in the form of Oxygen, Carbon, Hydrogen, and Nitrogen. O, C, H, and N are all readily available in the air, water.
And plants – for hydroponic nutrient and normal plants – have the ability to get these elements from the environment. Meanwhile, lights supply plants with energy to make food.
And before providing plants with necessary nutrients, you must take care of these organic composts first.
Without them, plants are bound to die. Meanwhile, without nutrients, plants can still live but will not develop properly.
These are nutrients that plants need to absorb in large quantities. They are the most vital nutrient minerals you must take care of first.
- Nitrogen: People usually use much of Nitrogen for the growth periods of plants before they start bearing fruits or flowering.
- Phosphorus: As a vital nutrient for plants like Nitrogen, Phosphorus is the essential component of DNA, the genetic memory unit of plants.
- Potassium: Another indispensable plant nutrient that is required in a large adequate amount for the effective development and reproduction of plants.
- Calcium: Necessary for cell formation and development. Too little calcium, leaf tips, and edges will turn brown and can die.
- Sulfur: A structural component of two of the 21 amino acid that creates protein. Also, helps activate and form certain enzymes and vitamins.
- Magnesium: One of the chemical components of chlorophyll. Magnesium helps create oxygen through photosynthesis.
Zinc: Zinc is very important in the formation of chlorophyll and other engines, and nitrogen metabolism.
Boron: Boron is used with calcium in synthesizing the structure and functions of cell membranes. Also, help with pollination and seed production.
Iron: A component of many enzymes associated with energy provision, nitrogen fixation. Help form chlorophyll, and is used in photosynthesis.
Manganese: Catalyze the growth process, and help form oxygen in photosynthesis.
What Plant Needs In Hydroponic Systems?
PH is also an essential element to count. The pH value of a nutrient solution has a huge influence on the amount of nutrition a plant can absorb.
It is essential to check pH levels regularly, preferably daily, even if you are careful about measuring and mixing your nutrient solution correctly.
What About Temperature?
A single plant’s demands may also vary under different environmental conditions, such as weather, season, and temperature.
This may be not an issue for indoor structures that have a controlled environment, but it is something to consider if your system is placed outdoor.
The nutrient solution must be kept at a steady temperature. The ideal is at room temperature, between 70 to 78 F.
This is more of a matter for outdoor methods that are opened to the weather.
For winter, you can get small water heaters that go inside your reservoir to keep the nutrient solution warm.
In summer season, keeping the reservoir in a shaded area and regularly topping it off with cool water is generally sufficient to keep it from getting too hot.
How To Select and Prepare Nutrient Solution Preparing?
You can either order a pre-made nutrient solution, or you can formulate your own.
Small gardens generally purchase pre-mixed liquid or powder concentrates that are added to water.
Large-scale farms generally mix their own to the specific wants of whatever they are growing, using bulk concentrates of the individual chemical composites.
Pre-mixed concentrates usually come in two separate bottles, one for macronutrients and one for micronutrients.
They are separated because some elements are incompatible with each other when concentrated and cause precipitation when they are combined.
Once diluted, they do not form precipitates and can be used together without issue.
Some producers have managed to hold the incompatible nutrients in a chemical system so that they do not mix.
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What About Hydroponic Systems Nutrients?
For a hydroponic indoor system, twin or triple pack solutions are usually the best options.
They are easy to mix and only need a few materials: a container to mix them in, a dedicated measuring cup, and a stirrer.
If your mixing container has a lid, you don’t even need a stirrer, as you can just shake it up.
The measurement is usually 3.5 mL of each concentrate per liter. Make sure to double-check the mixing instructions on the bottle, though.
Depending on the size of your system, for example, with a large scale Ebb and Flow setup, you may want to mix your nutrient solution in very large quantities.
Drums that are 55 gallons make ideal mixing buckets for large systems and can store enough nutrient solution to replenish your reservoir for weeks.
For smaller systems, or if you do not have space for a large mixing container, it is perfectly okay to mix your solution on an as-needed basis.
After mixing your solution, let it sit for a few minutes and settle, then check the pH and adjust as necessary.
Starting off with a perfect pH will make it easier to maintain.
There is no hydroponic nutrient solution recipe because that ratio will be different, depending on a variety of criteria:
- Plants types
- Plant growth stage
- Parts of plants you want to bring the most yields (leaf, fruit, root)
- Light intensity, weather, temperature, the season of the year.
For example, tomato needs (concentration in mg/l (ppm)):
- 190 N
- 40 P
- 310 K
- 150 Ca
- 45 Mg
- 200 N
- 40 P
- 280 K
- 140 Ca
- 40 Mg